She is on a mission to bring hope, and you can join her.
Editor’s note: Kelsey Bryant has been part of the Summitview family since she was in the fifth grade and has been a missionary in Thailand since 2014. She is hoping to stay in Thailand for at least the next two years and needs your support to continue her work. You can visit her support page here. She also blogs about her missions work and travels here. Come hear her share more of her story in the Fellowship Room Sunday, March 19 at 11:45 a.m.
My family moved to Fort Collins the summer before my fifth grade year, and my siblings and I enrolled at Heritage Christian School. That first year, my teacher arranged a missions week for our class where we studied different countries, met former missionaries and generally avoided schoolwork. Mrs. Max brought a ram’s horn from Israel, Mrs. Pinner tiny hand-stitched purses from China, but Mrs. Loyd changed my life. Our last speaker, she had only just returned from a several year teaching stint in Thailand. She passed out small strips of paper to each of us with Thai names scrawled on each. She asked all of us to pray for the person whose name we had received, names of those she had left behind in Thailand.
Now I don’t know about you, but I only remember so much about the fifth grade—my favorite pair of lavender sweatpants, Joel Max breaking the ceiling tile with his shoe, my best friend Paula and that one time I peed my pants at recess. But for some reason, I remember that missions week like it was yesterday. I can still see the tiny white paper in my hand, the word “Pa” scrawled across it in cursive letters. One word on a tiny slip of paper, burned in my memory.
I looked up at Mrs. Loyd and she’s still talking and reaching into her bag. Four trinkets emerge— three silver elephants and one magnificent golden one. They’re all tiny and delicate and perfect. All our eyes grow wide. Watching with rapt attention, we wait as she pulls out a hat and proceeds to put all our names in, drawing them out one-by-one. The silver elephants raffle off first. “Paige…Savannah…Natalie.”
She pauses, scoots the lone golden elephant to the center of the table. All eyes fix on Mrs. Loyd as she reaches in, grabs a slip of paper and pulls.
To this day, I can still feel the shock of hearing my name out loud. She plucks that perfect figurine off the table, comes over to my desk and places it in my hands. She shows me a small, hinged door on the elephant’s side, revealing a hollow space, not big enough for more than one or two small beads. I fold Pa’s paper up and slide it into the hollow space, gazing at the ornate swirls and colors scrawled across the golden elephant in my hands.
A feeling washed over me, the first time I think I’d ever heard God speak. It was a conviction that sank deep into my bones and even at 10 I was utterly convinced that God was calling me to missions. I told my teacher that week that God had called me to be a missionary. She said that God didn’t call 10-year-olds, but he does and he did.
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).
I don’t know what’s more foolish than a 10-year old girl.
I would exhort you not to take even the smallest step of faith for granted. The year I turned 10, God anointed me with a calling to missions in Thailand. It was a calling I didn’t see come to fruition for many years, not until my senior year in college. (I graduated with an education degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 2014.)
That year my sister, Karris, was about to graduate high school and had committed to a year ministering to a family in Kolkata, India. My brother also happened to be on a year-long stint in China at the time with a team from Summitview. While looking for opportunities abroad, Karris had unearthed a position in Thailand partnering with a missionary family as their homeschool teacher. After she chose to go to India, she told me I should take the position in Thailand. I laughed it off. I didn’t have a plan after graduation, but it seemed too coincidental for God to send all three of us to Asia at the same time.
He kept prodding my heart, however, and after prayer and overwhelming confirmation, six months later I found myself on a 747 bound for Chiang Mai, Thailand. Sometimes I joke that God showed me the door, I turned the handle, and he kicked me through.
What started as a one-year commitment quickly morphed into two, and this last July it became clear that God’s plan for me in Thailand was much more expansive than I foresaw back in college. Last July, I began teaching and tutoring students from various ethnic groups with an organization called Earth Mission Asia
. Earth Mission runs a medical training and education program for the Karen tribal people of Myanmar, the border country just west of Thailand. EMA has set up two health clinics inside Myanmar and a small education campus in Chiang Mai. Their program equips the Karen with the medical knowledge necessary to improve the desperate healthcare conditions in Myanmar.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Myanmar has the second-worst healthcare system in the world behind Sierra Leone. That’s worse than Nigeria, Rwanda, Cambodia, the Central African Republic and 185 other member states. In Eastern Myanmar alone, the mortality rate for birthing mothers is more than 25 times higher than in America. EMA’s work among the Karen people is changing those statistics and bringing hope.
The more I learn about EMA’s work and vision, the more I see how God has molded my talents and passions to align with theirs. Back in August, I began praying for an open door with EMA and in September I learned that they were searching for a teacher and media specialist. As God would have it, I gained experience as a photographer and marketer at a job I took at a small RV company back in college.
God molded my life to fit like a puzzle piece in his grand scheme for Thailand and Earth Mission Asia. I love working with the Karen people. They’re bursting with hope and cultural pride. Passionate about changing Myanmar, they see, for the first time, hope for their people. As a tribe, they’ve been persecuted, enslaved, shot at, discriminated against, and yet they hope. They’re incredibly resilient and have taught me much about believing in God’s often far-off promises.
It’s become clear that God is calling me to the Karen and to East Asia. I’ve accepted a volunteer position teaching first-year medical students basic courses in English and math. Additionally, I’ll be traveling to EMA’s health clinics in Myanmar to record the stories of the Karen people and spread the word about their courage and struggle.
I’m back in Colorado now raising support
to return to Thailand to teach and engage with the needs of the Karen people with EMA. I have a commitment of two years with the hope of staying indefinitely. All of EMA’s staff rely solely on support, as do all of our students. Partnering financially with churches and individuals across America allows EMA to continue to change the state of medical care in Myanmar.
Because I’m looking at a lengthier stint in Asia, I’m currently seeking a team of supporters to commit to monthly giving. It takes around $3,000 a month to live and minister in Thailand and I’m looking for a team of supporters here in the States to join me financially.
You and I, along with the Thai, Karen, and Burmese people, have the chance to take our ordinary, every-day faith steps and use them to change the world. I’m honored to minister in Thailand among the Karen people and I hope that you’ll join my team of extraordinary ordinaries.